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After postponing Android 11’s beta release twice, Google released the software today so developers can begin tinkering with it.
The release was supposed to occur on June 3 during a live-streamed launch event, but Google decided to postpone the proceedings, citing the George Floyd protests. Now the company has opted to cancel the original event entirely.
“Instead, we are releasing the Android 11 Beta today in a much different form, via short-form videos and web pages that you can consume at your own pace when the time is right for you,” the company wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.
Those with a Google Pixel 2, 3, 3a, or 4 phone can enroll to download the beta release. The company’s dedicated website for Android 11 also features detailed talks about the software and the new features.
Google says it designed Android 11 around three key themes: People, controls and privacy. The people theme focuses on reimagining the way the OS can prioritize your friends and family on the interface. Google decided to do this by creating “conversation notifications,” which will have their own dedicated section on the notification bar.
“To make communication easier and simpler on your phone, Android 11 will move all of your conversations across multiple messaging apps to a dedicated space in the notification section,” Google wrote in a separate blog post. “This makes it easy to see, respond to and manage your conversations all in one place. You can mark a conversation as priority to give it preference so you never miss an important message.”
Another change is the introduction of “Bubbles,” a floating icon that’ll appear on your phone when a friend, associate, or family member texts you. To us, the feature looks a lot like Facebook Messenger, which can also display “chat heads” over the Android interface.
On the controls front, the company wants to make it easier to use an Android phone to remotely access all your connected devices. So Android 11 features a new “device controls” menu, which can be brought up by long-pressing your phone’s power button.
“Adjusting the temperature, turning on the lights or unlocking the front door can now be done with a tap without opening multiple apps,” Google says. The menu will also give you quick access to any credit cards you saved over Google Pay or to your airline tickets.
Google also wants to address how people are constantly switching where their phone’s audio content is played from, whether it be wireless earbuds, Bluetooth speakers, or a smart TV. Android 11 tries to make this easier by including a dedicated button on the music track that’ll let you toggle between the devices on which you’d like to play the audio.
On privacy, Android 11 expands the ways you can limit your data from being shared with third-party apps. You’ll now be able to select “one-time permission” for an app to access your phone’s microphone, camera, or location data. “The next time the app needs access to these sensors, it will have to ask you for permission again,” Google says. (Currently, in Android 10, you can limit the access to when the third-party app is active, or choose to shut down the access completely.)
Android 11 also includes a privacy safeguard against apps you granted unnecessary permission to but rarely access. “If users haven’t used an app for an extended period of time, Android 11 will ‘auto-reset’ all of the runtime permissions associated with the app and notify the user,” Google wrote in today’s blog post. “The app can request the permissions again the next time the app is used.”
The company says it plans on making the Android 11 beta available to more devices in the coming weeks. Google expects the OS to move out of beta into a public release some time in the third quarter.
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This article originally appeared on https://www.pcmag.com/news/googles-android-11-beta-is-now-live-heres-whats-new